tv Tavis Smiley PBS May 3, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with cheech & chong. the grammy-winning duo first made their mark in the 1970's and 1980's with reef wheeling for rnsulture routine is that saw their movie up in smoke become the top grossing -- 1968. 19 they're currently on tour with the rock group. a conversation with richard cheech marin and tommy chong coming up right now.
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: it's been five decades since cheech and chong first got together. along the way they have performed in movies and on television series and over the years have become synonymous with the kind of views thatishment have continued to draw sold-out crowds. let's look at a clip from the tour.
having fun. >> we are having a ball. with the band, because we do stuff with them. it is really just the vitality of the show. tavis: i'm honored to have you both on the show. for those who don't know the story of how the two of you first got together, do you remember, first of all? >> kind of. he was the first mexican i had ever met. [laughter] tavis: how did you guys first connect? >> i was up in canada. >> he is canadian. >> i converted a family owned strip club into an improvisational acting theater. strip element.a >> cap the naked girls. customers didn't know that we were acting. [laughter] we had an acting ensemble.
i had another partner named dave and another straight guy named rick. rick was a real actor and his wife didn't know, really, the situation. she thought he was working in a legitimate theater. then we hit the newspapers and she came down one night. he actually had to quit the show. >> he got yanked offstage by his old lady. tavis: i guess he did. >> so a mutual friend of cheech suggested i meet this guy, real in,ny guy named richard marro who was a writer for an underground newspaper. so i drove out with my wife, shelby, and we went out and met richard. tavis: and the rest, as they
say, is history. >> and i invited him to the show, and he had to think about it. betweeno choose delivering carpets and hanging out with naked women and doing improv. tavis: tough choice. >> so cheech ended up being the straight guy, and then the whole group fell apart, as improv groups do. cheech and i were the only ones that stayed together. he showed up for rehearsal. there's nothing else to rehearse , but we were the only ones that showed up. tavis: so that's how it began. what do you make all these years later that you guys still have this report? >> is part of our dna. we were split up for quite a number of years, and then we got , and it's part of
our dna. we just cannot get rid of it. comedy teams are hard to do. that's why you don't see comedy teams because it is a unique combination of talents. and skinny, fat slow and smart, or slow and fast. it that makes the chemistry work when you do have a comedy duo? because you are right, there aren't many. you guys are iconic. what makes the chemistry work? >> you have to have the same frame of reference. arehat it really is is, we a powerful entity together. separately, we are ok, but together we are powerful. >> is like the everly brothers. they are great harmonizer's, and that's what we are.
>> is freaky the way it turned out. i think another thing is that we are ourselves. like, we never in been the characters to become in order to entertain, like martin and lewis. they were martin and lewis, but separately they were jerry lewis , who was separate then dean martin. cheech and i, we are like musicians that aren't really good enough to be really good musicians, but we are funny enough to be funny. yet during the breakup, you stayed busy. you have been acting, and you have an art collection. click simon chacon oh, i have three jobs. i am a chicano.
catholic education, you know, prepares you for anything that's going to happen. design or didby you fall into the acting thing? >> i just did the next gig, what ever it was. animation? sure, i'm a great animator guy. saying it tommy, i was was a great improv actor. that sounds good, so that's what we are doing. work, are there bits that tommy, and years ago that can stilll kill today? >> yes, all of them. practically every one. you just have to change the point of reference. that's what i mean about the truth. began, we boths discovered that cheech was
chicano. that's when our success started. ,ctually, when we got together our first gig, we had a band. he put a band together. we had a drummer, and i played guitar, and we never played one note. we just went out to do comedy. and by the way, we won the battle of the bands. [laughter] -- our humorr band is a lot of musician humor. it's the stuff that musicians do backstage before they go on, or on stage. they do funny things. that's really the basis of our comedy. but when we got to l.a., we were doing our crazy stuff, but it wasn't going over. waslayed one club where it a dance club, and the people had to stop dancing to watch cheech & chong. a were not too thrilled about
it. so the first show didn't go that well. so in between, then they went back dancing, and in between the gig, cheech and i got together and i said, there must be a character that you can do that we can both relate to. the low rider was born. >> and it changed everything. >> in vancouver, we had no idea what a low rider was. >> what made that character work? what were people relating to? >> they were relating to something they had experience, some person they knew that was their best friend or lived in the neighborhood or was part of that. but then they related it in new york because of the way we did it. we do basic stuff. a's like having pancakes or hamburger. we used to call it the omni berger.
it just had the right amount of and tomato. tasted great in toledo and in washington. it takes a long time to but that recipe together, and that's what we did. >> what we really did was we glorified who we were as opposed to trying to stereotype who we were. white, half chinese, and cheech is all mexican. >> 100%. [laughter] we used that. back in the day, you had jewish guys playing mexicans. you had the stereotypes. like a halfver been chinese comedian that i can remember. didn't relate to me as being chinese or white, just being a hippie. a long-haired hippie. audience just encompassed
everybody. we didn't leave anybody out. tavis: what were the challenges of trying to break into a comedy circuit as people of color? they didn't want comedy in the hippie age. there were no hippie comedians. we didn't start off as straight comedians like george carlin and convert to being hippies. trying to get the club owners to just give us a chance. >> and we could play loud music and we had to. in fact, we used the guitar and the amp as like a weapon. if the crowd got to unruly -- we used to play at club and manhattan beach that was owned by the smothers brothers. it was a beer joint and it was so rowdy that the smothers brothers wouldn't play there. [laughter] in fact, they told everybody, you can do comedy there.
we were there for a couple of months, every weekend. tavis: you guys have become famous for this sort of anti-establishment humor. tell me about the design of that as a frame and why you think that frame work. >> because we said from the beginning, we are not anti-establishment, we are the mainstream. this is what the mainstream looks like. that the cracked me up ideals of the hippie culture was the chicano low rider and his half chinese friend. but that is what they look like. it was inclusive of other minorities and everything. that is what the whole thing was about. >> and like i say, we were musicians. and musicians historically always got high. tavis: historically?
snoop was just here. >> go back further. go back to louis armstrong. go back even further than that, go back to the beginning of jazz. [laughter] tavis: what is that about? why do musicians need that kind of -- >> it calms you down. somebody is always looking for some kind of intoxicant to get them out of the everyday humdrum situation. tavis: so you think that in henstridge creativity over the years, or diminished it? >> absolutely it enhanced it. it is enhancing as we speak. [laughter] like we said, we were apart for
35 years. we are back together, and all it took was a joint. [laughter] >> it is a curse and a blessing. tavis: what do you make about the culture has changed in that you now have states that are legalizing it? >> it's going to happen. tavis: jerry brown says not california, not on his watch. >> but his watch is going to be over. chris christie said the same thing. tavis: what do you make of that sea change in the culture? >> i met president obama when i was in chicago. he had just made the speech at the democratic national convention. obama up and said hi, mr. , my name is cheech marin. he goes, i know who you are. i was raised in hawaii, a
surfer. so i went back to my room and googled him. raised inblack guy, hawaii. i wonder if he smoked dope. is the president, then it's absolutely going to occur. we got close with clinton, and then he got to the edge and said, i didn't inhale. [laughter] come on, brother. tavis: that has to be the greatest faux pas of his presidency. something funny, i didn't inhale. that was hilarious. i tried it, but i didn't inhale. >> in rectors spec, what did he have to lose? -- in retrospect. knee-jerka lawyer reaction. a trained logger. next but there are a lot of forces in our society who still
couldthat legalizing it be wrong. >> they are called republicans. they are wrong. >> my dad was a cop, lapd, 30 years. the station in east l.a. is named after my uncle. this isn't bogus, this minor intoxicant, they are putting people in jail. >> it is a medicine, and always has been since the beginning of recorded history. the chinese have used it for medicine for various illness, including cancer. i used it today, and it works. i used it for the flu the other day. and i a huge dose of thc
was incommunicado for a while, but i am here. tavis: i have often wondered whether or not back in the day -- and i want to talk about the hispanic comedians that have that you were the forerunner four, but back in the day, with there certain things that you did that created an impression that you got pushed back on from some mexicans for advancing an image of your culture that they did not find savory? >> not many. not enough to move the needle. they were all coming with us. two condos or the mexican-americans or the hispanics that were in power -- tide,icanos, the rising they were the mayor, the dogcatcher, the chief of police.
thethey kind of saul benefits of this being politicized. they saw the rising tide. .obody comes out of the culture they had no trouble with it. early in her career when all this furor are arose over it has no medical benefits, what if we are right? what if it does have all these benefits? and now we see that there is. tavis: so the community came with you then. make of the advent of the new hispanic comedian? has the pace moved as swiftly as you thought it would?
are you happy with the exposure they are getting? >> i really am. we see all kinds of latino comedians, freddie prince, george lopez. you are funny, and you broke through. we had to break through being hippies. really that was the breakthrough. >> the thing is about the theano and the latino is voting. the huge political influence that they have. and as long as we keep heading in the direction we are heading, the minority is already the majority.
bornyear, of all children in the united states, 50.6% latino. tavis: what do you make of the fact that there is still this uphill fight to try to get real meaningful immigration reform? >> i look at it like a lawful flow. lava flow. children arethose going to have kids. you go to pittsburgh, new orleans, hartford, connecticut, the majority are under 27. chicano.at is just the let's look at the other races that are in the race. >> education is the primary
goal, to get everybody that we can educated. we are justhat, numbers. >> you know what the minority really is now is rich, white guys. that is the true minority. when they recognize that and start doing something about it, until then were going to have the donald sterling's. tavis: what do you make of the fact that he doesn't want black people at his games, yet his girlfriend is half black and half mexican? berle hides in east l.a.. i don't understand that one. >> i think the government should let him graze his callous anywhere he wants. [laughter] cows ons to have his callou
federal land, that should be all right. rolled over bare and cheech marin are really good friends. giraldo rivera and cheech marin are really good friends. he was the first guy who put me on television. talk about your art collection. >> it is a collection of chicano art, exclusively. that there were all these chicano painters, and they are really good and they are not getting any traction. so i started putting a collection together and it has been my goal to get them as much recognition as possible. to that end, i have been touring these collections for years and years all over the country. i still have one now and it is the joy of my life. here is the face of america.
>> so you are the donald sterling of chicano art. >> i let my artists graze wherever they want. at the end of june we are representing the city of los angeles and the city of bordeaux . they are sister cities. so the chicano collection is the face of l.a.. i think that's where i want to go see it, in bordeaux. i love how this works after all these years, these guys still have it. they are on tour this summer with the band war. go check out war, get some good music and some comedy fun. on. to have you >> thank you. tavis: cheech & chong, i love
you both. that is our show for tonight. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with senator bernie sanders and then singer-songwriter carla bruni. that is next time. we will see you then. >> and by contributions to your
steves: westminster abbey. this most-historic church in the english-speaking world is where kings and queens have been crowned and buried since 1066. while it was first built in the 11th century, much of what we see today is 14th century. when there's a royal wedding, the world looks on as, amid all this splendor, thousands of britain's glitterati gather under these graceful gothic arches. the centerpiece is the tomb of edward the confessor, who founded the abbey. and surrounding edward are the tombs of 29 other kings and queens. this is the tomb of queen elizabeth i. her royal orb symbolizes she was queen of the entire globe. the abbey is filled with the remains of people who put the "great" in britain -- saints, musicians, scientists, and soldiers.
for lovers of english literature, strolling through poets' corner can be a pilgrimage in itself. king henry vii's lady chapel, with its colorful windows and fanciful banners, has the festive air of a medieval pageant. the elaborate ceilings is a fine example of fan vaulting, a style that capped the gothic age. at the far end, a wall of modern stained glass marks the royal air force chapel. it honors the fighter pilots of all nations who died defending britain in 1944. with saints in stained glass, heroes in carved stone, and the remains of england's greatest citizens under the floor stones, westminster abbey is the national church and the religious heart of england.
transporting crude oil by rail is sparking safety concerns and pulling the rental map from air surface plus, a one on one with governor jerry brown. >> i'm john myers in sacramento, this historic governor's mansion has history inside and nobody knows that better than jerry brown. we sat down for a conversation about california politics and why he wants an unprecedented fourth term as governor.